Dream of dotcom success. Quit school. Launch a startup out of a garage. Fail. Launch another one. Fail. Launch another one. Succeed! Buy a bloody Aston Martin because you can. Invest in other start-ups. Become a venture capitalist. Start a startup ecosystem! Continue.
The above is not your usual recipe for success, but for IT entrepreneur and venture capitalist Justin Stanford it was a path he had to take. By his own admission, Stanford was in a hurry. After he, his brother and father survived a car crash that killed his mother and sister Stanford didn’t want to waste time. He says, “It made me think there is no time like the present – ever. Everything can change tomorrow. That really lit a fire under my ass.”
It also meant he grew up very young. He says, “I felt I needed to get into this Internet entrepreneur thing. Every moment that passed the opportunity was slipping by, every year that I wasted in school, someone else was out there riding the wave and I thought that by the time I got there the wave would be gone and it would be commoditised – like it is today. That was what inspired the rebellion.”
His first two start-ups were dismal failures (his words) but they nevertheless gave him great experience. The mistakes he’d already made and lessons he’s learnt meant that at 21 when his third business selling Internet security software launched, it took off massively. Since then, Stanford (rumoured to be Aston Martin’s youngest ever customer in South Africa at 23) has intuitively harnessed both the surge in startups and venture capital with his company 4Di Capital and Silicon Cape.
#BestAdvice:The crazy test
Generally, whenever I’ve set out to do something I’ve felt strongly about, like quit school or start an Internet-based business in the early 2000s when everyone was on dial-ups (selling software online instead of in cardboard boxes on shelves) – I was always called crazy at the time. That’s how I know that I’m doing something interesting and that there is big opportunity. Everything that’s well understood and established, those things have been commoditised, the opportunity has already gone. If you are looking to do something big or disruptive, it’s good test.
#BestAdvice: Learn to code
I think that being able to code is going to be the skill of the future. Literally, I can always find enough lawyers and accountants, but if there is one thing we can never get enough of, it’s talented developers. Everything is going online, everything is connected and all of that is driven by software. Being able to code will be like being able to read and write in the future.
*By Tudor Caradoc-Davies